Game In A Sentence: Braden Holtby out-dueled Tim Thomas, while Joel Ward buried the overtime winner to send the Capitals into the East semifinals and the Bruins packing.

Observations:

- Matt Hendricks opened the scoring with one of the most beautiful and perfect deflections from the slot I’ve seen in a while, off of John Carlson’s shot from the point. The arena sounded absolutely raucous to start the game, but Hendricks’ goal really seemed to take the air and energy out of the building. The crowd didn’t wake up again until the Bruins’ powerplay to finish the first period, though the most audible crowd noise on that powerplay was obvious booing.

- I get that modern day pro sports is a “what have you done for me lately” kind of world, but come on, booing the defending Stanley Cup champions because they had a poor powerplay in the first period? Talk about a tough crowd. The fans also booed another underwhelming PP at the end of regulation.

- Tyler Seguin picked up the 17 565 in attendance with his determination in the second period. After Braden Holtby failed to control a rebound from a point-shot, Seguin pounced and dove to pound the puck in to equalize. The shot of Seguin lying between a crowd of Caps players in the crease with the building going wild was the perfect picture to describe what had just happened.

- Both teams missed some glorious opportunities to break a 1-1 tie in the second half of the third period. Alexander Ovechkin misfired on a one-timer with Washington on the powerplay that you just know was destined for twine if Ovie could have gotten all of it. Just a couple of minutes later, the Bruins saw a two-on-one amount to nothing. Patrice Bergeron also whiffed on a shot on the doorstep with a half empty net in the opening minute of overtime.

- I was wholeheartedly cheering for overtime after Jason Chimera was called for a Mickey Mouse holding penalty in the final minutes of the third period. I wouldn’t have liked that call at the 17:34 mark of the first period in a regular season game in October, let alone at the 17:34 mark of the third period in a tied Game 7.

- As is usually the case, the overtime winner was far from pretty, as Joel Ward buried a rebound after Mike Knuble took the puck hard to the net. The Capitals move on, and the “Stanley Cup hangover” talk can start up again.

- Barden Holtby came up large tonight, stopping 31 of 32 Boston shots and proving his composure when the veteran Bruins tried to get to him.

- Alexander Ovechkin, on the other hand, left us wanting much, much more. Ovie was barely noticeable for much of his 16:25 of ice time, finishing with two shots on net, three hits and a giveaway.

- During the game, espn.com’s live coverage of Game 7 mentioned that the Capitals were probably playing to save Dale Hunter’s job. Hunter led the Caps to a 30-23-7 regular season record after the team had started 12-9-1 under Bruce Boudreau, so it’s not like they experienced a big improvement after the coaching change. In my opinion, it was a valid question. Now? Thanks to Joel Ward, not so much.

- This East quarterfinal marked the first time in NHL history that all seven games in a series were decided by one goal. As the 15th overtime game of the first round, it also helped the 2012 playoffs tie the mark that the 2001 post-season had previously set.

- The shot of the anxious general managers is sometimes overused in an important hockey game. It was probably overused in this game as well, but in fairness, I can’t remember the last time a couple of GM’s looked as nervous as George McPhee and Peter Chiarelli did tonight in Boston.

- If you watched this game in Canada, you probably saw Don Cherry go off on one of his favourite rants, on how the linesman try to steal the spotlight at the faceoff circle instead of just dropping the damn puck. Here’s the gist of it: “they give it this one, they give it this one, they give it…’me linesman, me important person’.” Classic Cherry. Don’t ever change, Don.

My Three Stars:

1. Braden Holtby

2. Joel Ward

3. Johnny Boychuk